Chordette Qute EX DAC – Review
As I’ve recently heard and reviewed the Chord Hugo, I must say that that little amazing DAC really made me very curious on other products from Chord.
I thought that I really must hear the Chordette Qute Ex as it is in a similar price range and has a similar size.
With the courtesy of avstore, I’ve managed to get my hands on a unit and here I am on another journey with another good product.
First, if you haven’t heard of this dac, maybe you have heard of QuteHD. Well the EX is the upgraded version of that product. It brings support for both 384kHz PCM and 128 DSD music files. The older Qute HD had support only for 192 kHz PCM and DSD 64.
Harmonic distortion: 103 dBV
Signal-to-noise ratio: 115dBV
Dynamic range: 118dBVPower supply: 12v 1A 2.1mm connector. Centre point positive 100V- 240V – 50/60Hz, 1A wall adapter supplied
Dimensions: 160x70x40mm (WxHxD)
You can find more bout the product here.
I think that Hugo has newer technology inside as it has better specs.
I have always thought that Chord Qute HD and Ex were bigger or “normal” sized DACS. I had a pleasant surprise when I saw that size wise, is similar with hugo.
The build quality is, of course, top notch. I actually like the design of Qute Ex a little more more than the one of Hugo. I have the black version and I think it suits it really well.
The tests have been done with Decware Taboo MK3, Audeze LCD-X with Toxic Silver Widow, Burson Conductor, Audiobyte Hydra-X, Sennheiser HD800, Focal Spirit Classic.
Chesky Vivaldi – Allegro ( La Caccia )
While I felt it was not at the same level with Hugo the quality was still very good. The scene still had air, good transparency and details. The instruments had a very good instrument separation and presence. However I felt something was missing compared to my experience with Hugo which presented more details, more extended instruments, better dynamics and soundstage.
Silent Strike – Asian Paper Circus
Conductor really impressed me here, as combined with Hydra-X really gave the Qute-Ex a run for the money. While the chord was overall more detailed & faster, the bass on conductr+hydra was more punchy and present giving a more fun presentation. Hugo was a clear & distinct winner here, but now I couldn’t pick a clear winner .
Pink Martini – White Christmas
I liked the song on the little chord. Compared to Conductor, the voice has a better and more detailed texture, all the instruments are better rounded and more complete from the birth of the sound till the end of it.
Rod Stewart – Winter Wonderland
The timbre of the voice seem more complete and natural on Chord than on Conductor + Hydra. Both voices are very well extended and have a good presence throughout the song.
Even though the bass was more punchy and present with Burson+Hydra, the overall faster and more detailed sound of Chord Ex, easily won me over. The sound had more energy and even if the decay was faster with Chord, the sounds did have more extension and life on burson. The bass was more detailed and faster with Qute-Ex but didn’t raise the same level of engagement.
Mozart – The Marriage of Figaro
Because of the smoother and weightier sound with Hydra+Conductor, I ended enjoying this song more on Burson as Qute Ex had a slightly thinner presentation with more aggressive treble.
While the sound of Qute-Ex is fast, I miss the exploding transients from Hugo. Because of the more present & punchier bass I ended up enjoying this song more on Burson+Hydra.
The voice was much more natural and had a more pleasant and detailed timbre with Qute-Ex. The guitars seemed more detailed and had better spark.
The bass is not at Hugo’s level as it doesn’t have the same precision, detail nor depth and punch. Letting hugo aside the bass is fast and detailed but I would like more punch and a little more depth.
The mids are very nice presenting very natural and full voices that have very good texture and presence. The instruments’ life present good extension between the attack and decay.
The treble is well extended but sometimes it could add a little sibilance, or actually you can spot it better when it is present on the recording itself.
While not as transparent as Hugo, the Qute-Ex is still very good in this department.
While the decay is fast, the attack is lacking the force and energy from Hugo.
The details are again not in the same class as Hugo, but over Burson+Hydra. The sounds are better rounded with Qute-Ex and this brings more details into the song.
I really miss the microdynamics from Hugo. Letting Hugo aside, the dynamics are not bad at all with the Ex, being a clear winner here compared to Conductor and Hydra.
I had the feeling that the Qute Ex will not be in the same class with Hugo and I was right. While it is a very good product on it’s own, it didn’t impress me as much as it newer brother did. I felt that Hugo was a product that inspires you, that astonishes you with it’s capabilities and it’s genius, while the Qute Ex is an A student but lacks the genius. While I’ve seen other A students, geniuses are not that easy to find.
Hugo had one of the best bass I have ever heard in a Dac with incredible precision and control, followed by a wonderful depth and punch. With Qute-Ex I felt I needed a little more depth and punch.
The transparency, dynamics and details on Qute-Ex are below Hugo too but still good.
With Hugo there was no competition between Conductor+Hydra and it, but Qute-Ex while overall better, on some songs I preferred the Burson.
I think that I was really spoiled by Chord’s newest addition. If I eliminate Hugo from the picture, Qute-Ex is still a very good product with a lot to offer and all that in a very small and ergonomic package with excellent build quality and design.
- Good design and build quality
- Very good voices with natural tonality and texture
- Good details
- Good transparency
- Good dynamics
- Well extended treble
- Would like more punch and depth in the bass
- Quite the difference between it and Hugo
- The spdif input is not RCA which is more popular
Very Nice Review and the comparison with hugo same like my impression between this 2 dac,
can you provide chord ex with good linear power supply plus that hydra, and take a comparison again with hugo, thanks
Unfortunately I don’t have a linear power supply to fit the Ex, as the one from Hydra doesn’t work with it. Also the SPDIF input from EX is not rca, so I didn’t have the cable to test it with the rca spdif output of Hydra. These being said, I have the feeling that the usb input in Hugo is better from the one in the Ex.
I own the qute hd, and i must say
1. The walwart ps that comes with the qute hd is just crap, needs to be thrown in the garbage can. A linear ps is a MUST if you want to hear the true sound of qutehd.
2. Usb input is also crap compared to the spdif. You can use an bnc/rca adapter.
If you hear qutehd with linear ps and using spdif input im sure you will find it as good or better than hugo.
Dont forget hugo runs on battery power so it has from the start a big advantage over the walwart ps that comes with qute.
Thank you for the input, Adrian.
When Hugo first came out, it was the same price with Qute Ex. While there are ways to improve the Qute Ex, I think it would be easier and cheaper to just go with Hugo which is better from the start.
A good spdif interface is quite expensive on it’s own.
Also, Hugo has the newest technology from Chord and quite better technical specifications. I really doubt Qute EX could beat it, even with the improvements.
I have a stock QuteHD and was debating getting a linear power supply (LPS) such as the Hynes SR3-12 or replacing the QuteHD with the Hugo.
Adrian, what linear power supply do you have? Have you been able to compare the QuteHD + LPS to the Hugo? I feel that a good LPS is a little better than a battery power supply, but on the other hand, the Hugo has triple the tap length of the QuteHD, and Hugo’s designer has stated that it is the best DAC that Chord has ever made, including the $6,000 QBD76. So I would be very interested to hear your impression of which of these two things make a bigger difference to sound quality.
If you are interested, here is my system:
Sonore Rendu renderer > Audioquest VDM-5 coaxial SPDIF cable > QuteHD DAC > Audioquest King Cobra RCA cables > Burson Soloist headphone amp > JH16 Pro FreqPhase IEMs
By the way, I feel that the best USB converter is no converter at all. Use a renderer / media server that outputs SPDIF natively.
The Sonore Rendu has a high quality LPS, only outputs SPDIF, and was designed from the ground up for the sole purpose of rendering audio.
Here are some facts explained by Rob Watts himself:
I have read every post in that enormous thread, but I have yet to hear from anyone that done A/B listening tests between a Hugo and a QuteHD/EX with external linear power supply.
Im using it with Teddy Pardo PS (350 $), but Hynes is even better. The improvement is HUGE. With the cheap walwart it sounds horrible compared to the standalone PS. You wont belive it until you hear it.
As for Hugo, if it was a standalone DAC I would be interested. So far the amp inside is useless to me so why would I pay for it anyway ?
Also Hugo’s connectors are a JOKE : a crap micro USB and RCA connectors that don’t allow use of real audiophile cables. Btw how many audiophile micro-USB cables have you seen ? I understand its this way because it is a portable dac/amp.
So i’ll better wait until Chord decides to release a “hugo” standalone dac
I was not trying to convince you to upgrade from ex :). Hugo, however has the newest tech from Chord and has some noticeable technical improvements. About the micro usb, you are right. However hugo with stock usb cable still sounded better than ex with audiophile cable.
As for amp, you can use it just as dac and consider the amp a very nice bonus. Practically I see it better than ex and with the added amp too.
In the head-if thread, the designer Rob Watts explains that there is no separate headphone amp in the Hugo. The amplification is part of the analog output stage and even if you use the Hugo purely as a DAC, you cannot bypass this stage. I personally don’t understand this, but the point is that you are not paying extra for something that you won’t use.
I agree about the micro USB, but fortunately I use coaxial SPDIF. The Hugo chassis was redesigned with bigger holes for analog RCA cables, but I haven’t been able to find out if the coaxial SPDIF hole is big enough to fit an Audioquest cable.
Rob Watt also said in the head-if thread that he is working on a new version of the qbd76 with even more taps than the Hugo, but it probably won’t be out for some time and will cost a lot more than the Hugo.
Adrian is right, btw. I don’t know if Qute sounds better than Hugo, but the you MUST use the SPDIF input on the Qute if you review it. If not, you just wasted every readers time. An upgraded power supply does help quite a bit (more body and more analog sound), but you can also put that on the Hugo. So even though it helps, the benefit is a wash when comparing the two.
I disagree with wasting time of the readers. Anyway, I haves tested both spdif and usb…sorry…but it is not in hugo’s class…